I’m getting more interested in the similarity of yoga and qigong. It’s interesting that some of the concepts are very similar but don’t quite match up. For example, there are seven chakras that seem to have some relationship to the 3 main dantians.
1. Upper dantian – could be the crown chakra, the third eye chakra, or encompassing both
2. Middle dantian – seems to be the same as the heart center chakra.
3. Lower dantian (where we’re told to sink our qi) – seems to correspond to the sacral plexus chakra: “This chakra is responsible for our sexuality, physical vitality, emotions, pleasure, desire, passion, love, change, new ideas, and health. ” (from http://www.geocities.com/astraeaaradia/chakras.html, also a good url from the TCM side explaining the dantians, and one that relates the above somewhat)
The story gets more complicated, especially when meridians and acupuncture points are brought into the picture. The main dantians seem to leave out the root chakra, the throat chakra, and the solar plexus chakra. However once we start talking about vessels, flows, channels, microcosmic orbit, and so on, these areas seem to be referenced (with different names). I think that’s the tip of the iceberg as far as how complicated yoga, qigong, and TCM get. It seems obvious that even taijiquan typically looks at it all relatively superficially. Maybe that’s because the basics are already so difficult and that’s all you need. Maybe it follows the Pareto principle and 20% of it gives you 80% of the benefits. Right now, though, intellectually, and experientially, I’m not satisfied with that. I probably will be at some point, but for the moment, there are too many questions arising from my practice and stimulating my curiousity. Qigong is giving me some vague sense of sinking qi to the dantian, microcosmic orbit, and peng jin, “one qi”, and that is great to have some sense of what the taijiquan books say that seems mysterious, but also raises more questions than answers. There is also the idea of bandhas (sealing off parts of the interior of the body) and the kundalini “coiled serpent” at the base of the spine.
Another thing is they call it “gong” but it’s more that you work to “let it happen” like tensing first to stimulate a relaxation response. That is more difficult in a mind/body sense at first than say, doing 12-15 reps of some isolated resistance exercise, but seems to very gradually get easier but not under direct control, similar to your resting HR slowing due to ever-improving cardio – you don’t really accumulate that slowed HR effect via conscious control but indirectly through your cardio. But I think it’s more subtle than that. It’s endlessly fascinating and ever-deepening. I think that’s also why, if one’s main interest in martial arts, two things can happen: 1) the idea that there are diminishing marginal returns to all of this (if any returns at all) for your martial art – even one that claims to be internal – vs. 2) you become much more interested in health and TCM, ironically, when some statement like “the purpose of taijiquan is for health” pisses off the ma purist in you or others. But if that interest is sincere, it’s hard to argue with that statement. It’s not so much that there is dilution of taijiquan, but that the ma aspects and the related area of qigong and TCM are both deep and difficult and it’s hard enough to grasp some of one of these areas, let alone two, let alone the two combined.